POSTED: 10:43 am EST February 9, 2006

WILMINGTON, N.C. -- Three men were convicted of conspiracy in a $14 million scheme to ship stolen baby formula and over-the-counter drugs to customers outside of North Carolina, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

Mahmoud Bassar, Carlos Medina and Jose Francisco Orlando were convicted in federal court of conspiring to transport the stolen merchandise, Assistant U.S. Attorney John S. Bowler said.

Prosecutors contend the men organized shoplifters to raid stores, then shipped hundreds of pallets of the repackaged goods out of state starting in September 2003. Powdered baby formula is often stolen because it is compact and can fetch as much as $25 per 26-ounce can.

Lawyers for the men could not be reached for comment Wednesday. The three men will be sentenced in May.

The theft ring shoplifted from retailers like Wal-Mart and Kmart, then shipped the repackaged goods out of state, prosecutors said. The baby formula was often shipped to Columbus, Ohio, and Milwaukee.

Medina also was convicted of committing a violent crime to aid racketeering in connection with one home invasion, Bowler said.

Seven Honduran immigrants were sentenced last year for their role in the stolen goods scheme. Bowler said they were the victims in two home invasions designed to scare off middlemen.

The home invasions happened Feb. 15, 2004, in Raleigh and May 2, 2004, in Cary. In both incidents, residents were beaten, a woman was raped and items were stolen, police said.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press.